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B. R. Ambedkar was an Indian politician in the 1940s-50s who helped write the Indian constitution.

The Indian government hosts a web-page of his writings and speeches. Vol. 40, Page No. 467 is in Hindi:

फिलहाल काँग्रेस की राजनीति में महिलाओं की संख्या बढ़ाई जा रही है। महिलाओं की इस काँग्रेसी राजनीति के बारे में कुछ समझ नहीं आ रहा। स्वधर्म छोड़ कर महिलाएं राजनीति करते हुए घूमें इसके जैसी शर्म की बात कोई और नहीं। महाराष्ट्र की महिलाओं द्वारा अब केवल 'कासोटा' (महाराष्ट्री ढंग से साड़ी पहनते हुए नौ गज की साड़ी का पीछे की ओर खोंसा गया सिरा। इसके खुलने से एक तरह से साड़ी खुल जाती है। व्यंजनार्थ है - लाज-शरम या मर्यादा का त्याग करना) खोलना ही बाकी रह गया है। काँग्रेस द्वारा 222 महिलाओं को लोकसभा में लेने का निर्णय लिया गया है। महिलाएं विधानसभा में जाएंगी तो पुरुष क्या करेंगे? दिन भर लोकसभा में रहने के बाद जब फाइलें बगल में दबाए महिलाएं घर लौटेंगीं तब क्या उनके पति टेबिल पर भोजन रखेंगे? ये महिलाएं दिन भर पार्लियामेंट-एसेंब्ली में जाएंगी और शाम को घर लौटने के बाद पति से पूछेंगी, अजी सुनते हो, मैं पार्लियामेंट से आ गई हूं। घर का सारा कामकाज हुआ है कि नहीं?” ये महिलाएं पार्लियामेंट में जाएंगी और उनके बच्चे कौन सम्हालेगा? एक बच्चा रो रहा है, दूसरे की नाक बह रही है, तीसरा कहीं चला गया है - कौन इन बच्चों का खयाल रखेगा? यह सब उलटा हो रहा है। यह उलटी दुनिया है। अच्छा, पार्लियामेंट में जाकर ये महिलाएं करती क्या हैं? इस बारे में कुछ कहने में मुझे शरम आती है। उनके बारे में बताने का मेरा इरादा नहीं था, लेकिन अब बता ही देता हूं। (हंसी)।

To sum up, he basically says about gender roles:

It is shameful thing that women are leaving their duties and going into politics.

The decision has been taken by the Congress to bring in 222 women into the Lok Sabha. If women go to the Legislative Assembly, what will men do?

This seems in contradiction to his contributions to women's rights in India (e.g. 1 and 2), so I am doubtful.

Is the Hindi version an accurate quote?

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  • Could it be his viewpoints have changed over time?
    – Joe W
    Oct 27, 2023 at 19:08
  • @JoeW I don't think so. People's viewpoints hardly change in their old age. He died in 1956. He wrote his writings after 1947 (maybe) because he was talking about Indian politics (which was only possible after year of 1947, the independence year). By the way why people are downvoting this question? There's no rule that says you can't post other language answers. It follows all the rules too.
    – Luffy
    Oct 27, 2023 at 19:35
  • I'm not sure why this question is being downvotes, but I doubt it's because you're asking about something written in non-English.
    – F1Krazy
    Oct 27, 2023 at 19:36
  • @F1Krazy But there's no rule against it. Plus, I translated the main sentences.
    – Luffy
    Oct 27, 2023 at 19:37
  • @Luffy Yes, I know. That's why I said "that's probably not the reason". One thing I will note is that you're asking two questions at once, when questions should only contain one question; "Can a government website be wrong" is a trivial "yes", so I'd suggest editing this to focus solely on whether this is a genuine quote from Ambedkar.
    – F1Krazy
    Oct 27, 2023 at 19:38

2 Answers 2

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I see that this entry is attributed to a speech Ambedkar gave on October 15, 1956 in Nagpur. I ran the text through Google Translate and, to be frank, it is totally ordinary. Nothing here calls for skepticism.

The context of this quotation is Ambedkar in retirement trying to relate to the needs of local government in Nagpur by talking about the complexities of representative democracy in general. He discusses many issues, like the need for representatives to operate on good faith and call out disinformation. The paragraph that you are quoting simply expresses his own perplexity at the question of a stay-at-home husband being asked to cook and raise children. He says "the world is upside-down these days" and is trying to solicit a laugh, which appears at the end of the paragraph. His point is that this sort of thing does happen in a democracy.

Ambedkar does not denounce the electoral system which allows men and women to vote for the representative of their choice, nor does he call for women to be banned from government. There is no policy proposal here. His point is only that representative democracy can confuse gender norms and that he is sympathetic to the plight of the house-husband. I am using Google Translate so I can't know if his remarks sound insensitive to a modern ear, but I think if he was denouncing female participation he would have taken on a much different tone.

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  • Google Translate translated it in a wrong way. Instead of "It is shameful thing that women is leaving their duties", it says "There is no such shameful thing as women leaving their religion and going into politics." Did you see how it changed the context? I'm native Hindi speaker and can confirm THIS is inappropriate to say. Ambedkar was the radical person. "but I think if he was denouncing female participation he would have taken on a much different tone" But he is clearly saying that the decision (by Congress) of women in parliament is wrong. Tone doesn't matter here.
    – Luffy
    Oct 28, 2023 at 4:50
  • As you suggested, I changed the title.
    – Luffy
    Oct 28, 2023 at 4:53
  • @Luffy Thank you for changing the title. Since I can't read Hindi I cannot help you further, but I still feel like you need to look at this in light of the whole text, which doesn't imply to me any sort of anger or call for change, but lighthearted, jocular remarks delivered off the cuff.
    – Avery
    Oct 28, 2023 at 18:40
  • 2
    @Luffy: I am confused. How does saying that women going into politics is not shameful mean that he is saying that women in parliament are wrong? It sounds like the complete opposite to me. Oct 28, 2023 at 20:22
  • @JörgWMittag: We are going back and forth on this confusion. The Google translation should probably be added to the answer to clear it up. Google Translate says "There is no such shameful thing as women leaving their religion and going into politics." I interpret this as "There is nothing more shameful than..." Not clear how the OP is reading this.
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 29, 2023 at 4:40
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“I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved”

Babasaheb Ambedkar: Champion of Women´s Rights and Indian Women’s Rights Mattered to Ambedkar. Here’s What He Enabled are news articles that highlight the political contributions of Dr. Ambedkar to women's right in India. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the question of women’s liberation in India – part I, II and III academically explore this subject in more detail.

(This background is very important to not misunderstand him).

Ambedkar grew up in a culturally regressive indian society mixed with British Victorian values. So there are indeed some patriarchal overtones in his speech to the local public that can lead some to think that he didn't care about women's right. But, no, he didn't say or mean that it is shameful for women to enter politics (your Hindi-English translation is wrong, and you are also ignoring the context of the speech).

First, keep in mind that the subject of the speech is a brief comparison between parliamentary practises in England and India. As he talks about it, he speaks critically about the Indian National Congress (the party in power) that is defining India's political cultural during that period of time. The section you have quoted is his criticism that the Indian National Congress, in its eagerness to make politics accessible to women, doesn't seem to be paying attention to the character and morals of the women participating in politics.

स्वधर्म छोड़ कर महिलाएं राजनीति करते हुए घूमें इसके जैसी शर्म की बात कोई और नहीं।

Should be interpreted as - "There is nothing more shameful than women indulging in politics at the expense of their moral values and duties". He then emphasises this by saying:

महाराष्ट्र की महिलाओं द्वारा अब केवल 'कासोटा' खोलना ही बाकी रह गया है।

(Translation) "This is akin to a Maharastrian women not being mindful of what happens when the knot tying the saree is pulled off." [He refers to the way Maharastrian women wear the Saree - an indian dress - that is held together with a knot. A women can be undressed with the pull of this knot, if they are not careful. He is trying to draw a parallel with women in politics who knowingly or unknowingly sometimes sacrifice their dignity, without any care.]"

Ambedkar then makes a patriarchal joke about how these kind of women spend their whole day in Parliament, bring home their work by coming home with files, asks her husband if household chores have been done etc. And jokes about what a topsy-turvy world this can be. (The crowd laughs).

He then says that he feels a bit embarrassed to speak about the character of some of these women Parliamentarian. He cites an example of a letter he received from a women politician from Maharastra who refers to Nehru very informally [without referring to Nehru with honorific or like a relative - brother, uncle etc. - as is culturally expected]. Then there were other letters too, where some woman even refers to Nehru affectionately, like a woman does to her husband. Since some of these letters were scandalous, he says, he burnt a few of these letters. (Remember, this was an era of Victorian values).

Ambedkar then says he showed one of these letters to Nehru. Nehru replies that he gets a lot of irrelevant letters like this, and to ignore it. Ambedkar then tells the crowd, "I was trying to tell him to be mindful of his public image [and of such women activists], but he was dismissive about it".

He then concludes (this part of the speech), taking another dig at the Congress party, "This is what I want you all to give careful thought to. What is the idea behind Congress' efforts if it allows wayward women to enter Parliament?"

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  • 1
    Thank you very much for taking the time to provide this context.
    – Avery
    Dec 5, 2023 at 3:02
  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Dec 6, 2023 at 7:03

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